A Grand Weekend

Last month, I tagged along with Chad while he attended a work conference on Mackinac Island. This lovely historic landmark encourages visitors to slow down and relax. Visitors travel the island with bikes, horses, or on foot, no cars allowed. Horse drawn taxis wait near the ferry to slowly take travelers to their destination.

We had the opportunity to stay at the Grand Hotel. While my husband would rather enjoy a bonfire by a hunting shack, he was so moved by the bright florals and broad stripes in this Victorian Hotel that upon entering our room, he said, “It looks like a clown threw up in here!” 🙂

I have fond memories staying at the Grand Hotel on one special occasion as a child. My parents attended a work conference the same weekend as my sister’s birthday. She was surprised with birthday cake in the Grand dining room, and Gordon MacRae sang Happy Birthday to her. From that moment on, I wanted to celebrate a birthday in the same way!! For years, as a child, I believed my parents’ white lie that we couldn’t go to Mackinac in May because the Straits were still frozen over. In reality, my parents always worked the weekend of my birthday as it was Hillsdale College’s Commencement.

My favorite activity on the island is renting a bike and enjoying the 8.2 mile trip round. Other pleasant activities include browsing the many shops on Main Street, sampling the island’s famous fudge, and watching the sunset on the world’s largest porch at the Grand Hotel.

Planked Whitefish at The Village Inn (just off the Main Street through town)

Enjoying the beautiful views from The Yacht Club

An evening at the Pink Pony

No trip to Mackinac is complete without a visit to the local fishery just outside Mackinac City to bring home whitefish.

Thanks for reading!

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A Fowl Lesson

a duck

(Washing one of our ducks after it ran under a car and was covered with grease)

We have been loving the peace and quiet of country life and learning along the way. Adding farm animals has been a slow process, beginning with the purchase of ducklings while we were still living in town. We knew some of them would be used for meat, some layers, and hopefully some new ducklings. When we purchased the ducklings, we had a long talk with the kids, discussing why they should know the process of field to fridge and the importance of humanely raising and slaughtering animals in our care. As the ducks reached the age for market, I called around for local processing options. We were disappointed to discover nothing local. The closest shop was 90 minutes away, and the cost was more than twice that of a chicken. Chad decided on another option; we would butcher the ducks ourselves. After all, a few years before, we had processed two older chickens to prepare authentic Coq au Vin. Preparing chickens was fairly manageable. Why couldn’t we process ducks as well?

We started our adventure last Sunday morning. I insisted that they have a last meal, so they were happy ducks on the way to slaughter. After feeding, we wanted to put them in their pen, so they could be in a familiar place and be calm. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. I usually take a broom and slowly move them in the direction of their pen. With a few soft words and nudge of the broom, I rarely have problems. I didn’t consider that all the kids and a few friends were outside and joined in something similar to a cattle stampede. The ducks scattered in all directions, some hiding under cars, some running behind the garage, and none heading toward the pen!

The ducks eventually reached the safety of the duck house while Chad began preparing for step one, what I refer to as the “cone of death.” He attached a cone to a tree, and I brought out the first duck. I swear the duck was staring at me the entire time with a sad look on its face as it quietly, without protest approached the cone. I couldn’t watch “step one,” and Chad later agreed it was an entirely different experience butchering an animal that you raised.

Then my son, George, his friend, Zach, and I began the next step, immersing the ducks in a soapy hot water bath and plucking feathers. This did NOT go as planned. The feathers started coming off fine, smelling something close to wet dog. Then I started to remove the pin feathers. Pin feathers are more firmly attached and usually must be pulled individually. To my rolling stomach, I noticed each feather included a squirt of oil from the duck’s oil gland. At first I tried to ignore it and quickly pull as many as I could. Soon, I was fighting the urge to dry heave. The pin feathers seemed to multiply every time I turned the bird over! Thank goodness Chad stepped in and helped finish. Even writing this makes me sick to my stomach!

Chad finished the processing, which we now know was much more labor intensive compared to the chicken experience. Learning this lesson the hard way, we understand why ducks cost so much more to prepare. While we are still willing to prepare larger animals (like a whitetail from the fall harvest), Readers, learn from our experience, some products are better purchased at the grocery store!

He Married Mrs. Butterworth…

mrs-butterworths

The end of 2012 has been tough. We witnessed the unthinkable and now have to move on. I thought the best way to start the new year was through the healing power of laughter. As I wrote this, I noticed most of the stories were about my son, George Donovan, so I decided to keep this post all about him. As a mom, I always try to keep things fair, so while writing this, I had a healthy case of “Mom guilt.” However, upon reflection, I did write about Mary Kate’s artistic talents, so don’t worry Patrick, I will find a way to embarrass you through this blog too. 😉 Here are a few stories from the Murphy Family where we laughed together and used the humor to bond.

I have so many funny stories to share about my kids, but ones that stick out are from my son, George. He has always been a big boy, just under 12 lbs at birth (a natural birth, I might add). G always has a positive attitude and hearty belly laugh to accompany life. He also has a healthy appetite. Following the Murphy weekly routine, Sunday pancakes are the norm. One of those many Sunday’s, G’s siblings decided to tease him about his love of pancakes. They teased that he would one day marry Mrs. Butterworth. Not missing a beat, G picked up the syrup container as if he were making a toast and proclaimed, “You may now drink the bride!”

As a young child, George called trailer hitches “hookers” because to his three year old mind, it was logical that you hook things on to them. George also thought it was really special that his dad had two hitches on his work truck. It was a family joke, until one day on a weekend trip up north, we stopped in Baldwin to eat. After we were seated at the table, George proudly smiled and announced to our server, “My dad has two hookers on his car!” After our initial embarrassment, we were able to laugh about the incident.

Finally, I can share what is now a fond memory of our first family camping trip. Our kids were 3, 2, and six weeks old. We had purchased our first camper and wanted to start small and camp close to home. We opted for a beautiful, rustic campground in Yankee Springs. After the challenge of setting up camp with three young children, Chad and I put the kids down for naps and put on some music (via car radio) and shared some wine around the campfire. Oblivious to the noise in the camper for some time, what finally caught our attention was the water leaking out. We ran inside and found George over the bathroom sink, trying to prevent the water from overflowing by filling Dixie cups and stacking/sloshing them on the sink and tub area. With five gallons of water left in the tank, we still managed to make it through the weekend with many trips to the community hand pump.

In our family, uncontrollable fits of laughter are common. Unfortunately, many of these incidents happen at the table and accompany projectile kernels of corn or Vitamin D milk. However, despite the occasional mess, belly aches, or laughter to the point of tears or other bodily exits, humor is what makes the Murphy home worthwhile.